I was with a client a few weeks ago and the topic of humility and leadership came up. On the plane home I had lots of time to think about the traits I would use to describe humility in leadership. When we think of traits leaders typically exhibit, many come to mind—including strength, charisma, enthusiasm, and vision. One important component is often overlooked: humility.
Let me be VERY clear. Being humble doesn’t mean being weak, soft, bumbling or unclear. The virtue of humble leadership makes it very different from the top down leadership styles we have been given to consume in our popular culture. Simply, humble leaders don’t make for good screen-plays. I am sure there is research to support it but my observations of wonderful leaders is that they get better employee engagement and higher levels of performance from people because they focus on others in a truly compassionate way and they are open to feedback.
Here are the first three of six qualities of humble leadership.
Be Open to the Opinions of Others
Humble leaders seek input from others to ensure they have all the facts and are making decisions that are in the best interest of the team. No one person has all the answers. If you think you do, then it’s probably time to reassess. People want to work for people who value their opinions rather than ignore or dismiss them. Effectively humble leaders are comfortable asking for input and can just as easily be decisive when required.
Tend to the Needs of Others
Compassion in looking out for others is a meaningful way to show your care. Remember actions speak louder than words. That doesn’t mean hand-holding, but it does mean caring about the environment in which your team is working and ensuring that they have what they need to do a good job. While intelligence and skill are typically good predictors of team performance, a spirit of caring and compassion for others will put your over the top.
It’s tough to be more vulnerable, transparent and open. Even those who consider themselves humble don’t want to look like they’ve messed up. But, as human beings we all make mistakes. When you’re willing to share your own missteps, and how you dealt with and recovered from them, you earn trust from your team. There is a lot of power in showing that you are not infallible.
Focus on thee three behaviors over the next week. Three more will come your way next Thursday. Until then, be cool and be humble.